In this article, I seek to defend three main claims: Firstly, that the kinds of practices that are the object of study of constitutional theorists are undergirded by certain fundamental shared understandings. Secondly, that these shared understandings together form a rich fabric of meaning that is, broadly speaking, held in common across modern western societies, which I call the ‘constitutional imaginary’. Thirdly, that political institutions play a symbolic role as ‘repositories’ of shared understandings, which is crucial for the development, maintenance, propagation and evolution of the constitutional imaginary. On the basis of these claims, I propose a distinctive role for constitutional theory: the interpretation of the social meaning of political institutions and the actions and events that take place in and around them.
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